Here is another happy find from the Baen Free Library, a section of the Baen site where a good number of books is offered for free download, as a way to sample authors and their works. Selections from Brave New Worlds is a sampler from a larger collection of short stories, this time with a dystopian theme. Not all of them were concerned with ruin and destruction changing society, as is often the case, but they were all quite intriguing in their very different outlook.
AMARYLLIS, by Carrie Vaughn
As the editor writes in the introduction, a dystopia is not necessarily a synonym for “post-apocalyptic” and it does not necessarily depict a bleak scenario. This is particularly true for Amaryllis, since here the end-of-the-world-as-we know-it has already happened, and is something that belongs to the past. Society has adapted to the new living conditions, and found new ways to carry on and move forward – there is no tragedy to deal with, but this does not mean that things are easy…
The titular Amaryllis is one of several fishing boats, tasked with the job of providing fish for the coastal community where the crews live: after the upheavals that changed the world, a new way of life has taken hold, one where checks and balances rule every human action, to avoid upsetting the eco-system and falling into the same mistakes of the past. For this reason, each fishing boat is assigned a quota that must not be exceeded – “take what you need, and no more”, this is the golden rule that regulates all activities. Including reproduction.
In this new world, families are not necessarily formed through blood ties, but rather built on commonality of interest, and Marie – the owner and skipper of Amaryllys, has built her small family group around it and turned it into a thriving reality despite the big stigma hanging over her, since her mother’s pregnancy was not sanctioned by the community and it caused the disbanding of the family group. When the latest addition to Marie’s clan, Nina, starts expressing the desire to have a baby, the skipper must face some difficult decisions…
I liked this short story very much, because it manages to convey poignancy without need to delve into tragedy and turmoil. Still the message is a fascinating one: how much control over our lives, our legacy to the future, are we ready to leave in the hands of the law? Even though these laws have been drafted to protect humanity from its past mistakes? Carrie Vaughn’s reply to the question is a fascinating and delightful one, indeed.